Get ready for study tips that go way beyond the ordinary stuff you hear, backed by the latest tricks and techniques from science, that are hard to find anywhere else. I’m not just going to tell you for the 402nd time how to write a revision plan, or suggest you use mind-maps and flashcards as if you’d never heard of them before.
We’re going far deeper than that, getting right under the skin of the building blocks of exceptional study performance, with advice that I PROMISE will get you working smarter and more effectively than you ever thought possible.
Expect Exam Study Expert to bring you actionable advice that makes a genuine difference to your performance. We put a huge amount of research and thought into every article to make sure they are absolutely bursting with fantastic advice. To make sure you don’t miss the tips that could make the difference between hitting and missing the grades of your dreams, sign up to our mailing list (no spam, just brilliant study advice every 1-2 weeks).
The three pillars of great grades, and fifteen fast study tips to get you going
I believe there are three things you need to master to do brilliantly in your studies. Here they are, with a couple of my favourite tips in each. These barely scratch the surface of how I want to transform your learning: there is SO MUCH more where these came from – take this as a taster of what’s to come.
1. Ability. Talent. Whatever name you give it, it’s not fixed: it’s in your power to change! The brain can literally remodel itself with sustained, quality practice. Not a math person? What you really mean is you’re not a math person YET! That feeling of finding problems hard? It’s the feeling of your brain growing. Fantastic!
2. Unleash the power of habit with a killer routine: find a schedule that works and stick to it. No more willpower needed to get back to your desk: make your chosen study times a habit, and it becomes your default mode. Tough for the first few days, but stick with it and it will get easier, I promise.
3. Struggling to find motivation for your new study routine? Get ACCOUNTABLE. Share your intentions with a friend or parent and make yourself answerable to them every day. A friendly nudge in the right direction. Or if you really need to raise the stakes, commit to giving money to charity every time you miss your goals.
4. Meditation for students: a great way to stay focused. What do Steve Jobs, Madonna, Schwarzenegger, Oprah Winfrey (and probably half of the Forbes Rich List) have in common? They meditate. To find focus, control stress, and be healthier in mind and body. Strikes me that more students should be meditating too. Seems science agrees too. New to meditation? I got my start with the great little app from Calm.
5. Break up your studies into a series of sprints. Some call it “pomodoro”, I call it the best thing that ever happened to productivity and focus. The idea is that you set a timer while you’re working, for a fixed burst of concentration – usually somewhere between 25-45 minutes, depending on how long you can stay in the zone for. Between bursts, you give yourself a 5-10 minute break, and after 3 or so of these cycles, have a longer break. There’s something irresistible about the urge to keep pumping out the work while the clock is ticking…
6. Smash the temptation to procrastinate: Need some tough medicine to kick the procrastination habit? Win the war right now and expunge the culprit apps from your phone, uninstall the offending games from your P.C., put the Xbox in the loft and retake control of your day.
7. The one thing I wish I’d done better as a student: exercise. It makes SUCH a difference to your energy levels and ability to focus, boosts your immune system, and improves long-term health.
8. The magic of sleep. You may have heard we consolidate our memories while we sleep, and it’s true. Make sure you get a good night while you’re studying – if you’re having trouble nodding off, make sure you stop working at least an hour or two before bedtime and find a relaxing bedtime routine, maybe involving a warm bath and a comforting book.
9. Your secret allies in study success: your friends and family. It’s easy to see friends as competitors and family as interfering. But these can be some of your most powerful allies: they can be accountability partners, human alarm clocks, “test me” buddies, and most of all, someone to offload your woes onto. Take care of those relationships and they will take care of you
10. Library learning lubricates your exam hall memory. The more similar the place we learn something is to the place we try to remember it, the easier it is to remember. (Check out the original study on this cool phenomenon if you’re interested). So find a quiet, studious place (like a library) that “feels” as much like an exam hall as possible to maximise the amount of stuff you’ll actually remember on the day.
11. Use questions to plough the fields of your memory ready to plant with information: read some real, genuine exam questions before you start studying that topic, and feel the transformative effect on your motivation and focus, and on how you start targeting the “high yield” things to learn.
12. Spend less time pushing information in, spend more time pulling it out: Trying to remember stuff (even if you don’t remember it all perfectly) is the BEST way to lock information away into long-term memory. (Backed up by decades of research on real students). Using flash-cards well is one way to do that. It takes more effort than just reading or note-taking, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded in spades!
13. Give it some space: Everyone says “don’t leave it all to the night before”, but equally, don’t do it all 2 months before the exam and expect to remember it all! Refresh your memory (ideally by trying to remember what you learned) that night, the next morning, in a week’s time – and FEEL the difference!
14. Stop blocking and chop it up: It’s official: you’ll do better if you mix it up, and “interleave” different topics. Switch between practising different kinds of problems, don’t allow yourself to “get into a rhythm” with any one type of problem. It makes it a bit harder, but that feeling is the feeling of you learning faster and better
15. Spend at least 25% of your essay-writing time planning and structuring: Most of us have to write exam essays of some sort: there’s a real temptation to dive straight into writing without planning properly first. Spend at least 25% of the available time planning – so for an essay of 40 minutes, spend 10 minutes on your plan. And do all your plans first, while you’re still fresh: so if you’re doing three 40-minute essays, that means you’re spending at least the first half hour of the paper planning. Feels scary first time you do it, but you’ll thank me!
The final piece of the jigsaw is exam technique. If you’ve got exams coming up, you’ll want to know all the tricks of the trade to deliver on the day in the exam hall. I’ve complied what I think is the most comprehensive guide to exam technique ever produced, and distilled it down to a super-handy eBook which you can grab from Amazon right now: click the link if you want to get access to Outsmart Your Exams right now.